Menu

Organized for Success: Geospatial Project Management on Chicago's Red Line

The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Red Line is Chicago's busiest rail line with an average weekday ridership exceeding 250,000. It's a vital artery of the city, and runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—ideally, the Red Line should never shut down. So the CTA's recent rehabilitation of 10.5 miles of the Red Line was a major logistical challenge, especially since this particular stretch runs along the Dan Ryan Expressway and has a very narrow right-of-way.

The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Red Line is Chicago's busiest rail line with an average weekday ridership exceeding 250,000. It's a vital artery of the city, and runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—ideally, the Red Line should never shut down. So the CTA's recent rehabilitation of 10.5 miles of the Red Line was a major logistical challenge, especially since this particular stretch runs along the Dan Ryan Expressway and has a very narrow right-of-way. Chicago's Dynasty Group were the project's lead surveyors, and got things started with the most sophisticated corridor survey in the Authority's history, a massive logistical effort that ultimately included traditional, GNSS, laser, and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys of the entire route, plus geo-referenced video. In addition to performing the survey and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) work, Dynasty also coordinated the efforts of other subcontractors, including geotechnical, environmental boring operations, and bridge inspections. Managing dozens of crews and CTA flaggers, all working on two rail lines squeezed into a corridor about 30-feet wide, required world-class project management techniques.

Dynasty Group built their project coordination methodology around uGRIDD, a web-based platform that organizes project data geospatially.

World Class Data Delivery

uGRIDD is an initiative of Dynasty Group's President Zhong Chen, who says, "I couldn't wait for the day when architects and engineers would have desktop access to point clouds. Now we're finally able to make that happen."

"For the past couple of decades," he continues, "Surveyors have been delivering data with CDs, DVDs, email, FTP, etc. And that's faster, but it's not really different. Web-based delivery has the capacity to be really different."

uGRIDD (www.uGRIDD.com) is an access-controlled website that aggregates all data collected for the rail survey, overlaid on relevant, publicly-accessible layers like aerial photography and CORS stations. It has a simple interface and, ideally, will replace most paper deliverables for most users.

Project managers can work alone, or with assistance from uGRIDD staff to determine what website elements are needed for a particular project; project-specific forms and protocols are then created. For the CTA/Dan Ryan project, several sophisticated features were included for use by the CTA, Dynasty Group, designers, and lead contractors.

• Leica's TruView was used to create accessible point clouds that were used by designers for measurements, and by management to make decisions regarding the impact of improvements. "Giving clients desktop access to the actual point clouds is important," says Chen, "It really helps them to see the value of scanning data."

• Geo-referenced, high-definition videos of the corridor, taken from the front and back of north- and south-bound trains, were included, along with a sophisticated graphic interface. Basically, as the video shows in one window, an icon moves along the route in another window, showing the video location. Thus, the route window can be used to snap to video locations, and vice-versa.

• Topographic, GPR/NDT, environmental, drainage, geotechnical, and other data were all readily available and easily located by the spatial interface, along with task data and organization charts.

• All the data you would expect to find in Google Earth, or a good municipal GIS, was also available, making the project website the first place to look for project data of any kind.

Really, a uGRIDD-enabled system resembles a project-scale GIS, optimized for spatial data. It's impressive… but do clients really use it? Chen says yes, emphatically; "Everything we agreed to do is on the web page, which minimizes the loss of data from surveyor to designer and, later, from designer to contractor. And this gives management a good way to look at field conditions, so they can make better decisions. I know for a fact that the video was used to make choices during the 30% design."

Of course, the website is also important internally; Dynasty Group crews rarely return to the office. Instead, they upload and download data via the website, using laptops or even smartphones. Given Chicago's traffic congestion issues, this saves many hours each week.

The CTA/Dan Ryan project was one of uGRIDD's earliest projects to incorporate multiple sophisticated features, and performed extremely well. Most stakeholders used the system at least occasionally, and it was central to the workflow of surveyors, designers, and the general contractor. It proved that geospatially-organized infrastructure project management is more than a good idea—it's actually a present reality being implemented by progressive infrastructure firms.